Author: Rick R Reed
Characters: Dan, Adam, Mark, and Sullivan
It’s 1991, and Dan Calzolaio has just moved to Florida with his lover, Mark, having fled Chicago and Mark’s addictions to begin a new life on the Gulf Coast. Volunteering for the Tampa AIDS Alliance is just one part of that new beginning, and that’s how Dan meets his new buddy, Adam.
Adam Schmidt is not at all what Dan expected. The guy is an original—witty, wry, and sarcastic with a fondness for a smart black dress, Barbra Streisand, and a good mai tai. Adam doesn’t let his imminent death get him down, even though a downward spiral that sees him thrown in jail.
Each step of Adam’s journey teaches Dan new lessons about strength and resilience, but it’s Adam’s lover, Sullivan, to whom Dan feels an almost irresistible pull. Dan knows the attraction isn’t right, even after he dumps his cheating, drug-abusing boyfriend. But then Adam passes away, and it leaves Sullivan and Dan both alone to see if they can turn their love for Adam into something whole and real for each other.
Rick R Reed was born to be a story teller, of that I’m sure. This man pours himself into each and every story he tackles and he does it with such fervor that often times his readers are left inspired and in awe over his talent. Rick did it again with Caregiver . Only this book, this story is so much more than just a story. This is a semi-autobiographical account of his personal experience as an “AIDS buddy” and when I found this out, it made the story itself a lot more powerful. It made the tears and the heartbreak, real. Not to say I don’t tear up for characters I read about, it’s to say the tears and the hurt is different knowing that they are shed and felt for someone who really is and was alive.
I write this review with tears in my eyes that are the result of being both happy and sad. I, throughout the story, had this ever present lump in my throat that threatened to burst with each passing page. Even as I type this now, thinking of the characters and their story, I can feel the burn behind my eyes. This is such a strong poignant story that is meant to move you, it moved me and I know it’ll move you too. I’m that sure of it.
The story begins with us seeing an email written to Dan Shoemaker from his agent, and she more or less told him there wasn’t a market for his new novel, which is titled, Caregiver . She said it was a memoir and the public wanted romance. What the public wants, they get. Now when you read this part of the story, you’ll see where he lives and get an idea of him and his partner and when I paused, I said to myself. My goodness, Dan sounds to me, like the author of the story. And Dan is the author of this story. Confused? Don’t be. When you read it, you’ll get it and understand and then you’ll smile through those tears.
Dan Shoemaker is a popular romance novelist, it’s earned him a wonderful living and when he decided to pen a different sort of romance story he was turned away and told to find a home for it on his own. As Dan Shoemaker said, “The story was solid. It made you laugh. It made you cry. It made you think. There was timeliness and social relevance to it.” All very true. He is right. From here he goes onto tell us of the story he has written.
The story is about Dan Calzolaio, it’s about his life, about the good and bad, the happy and sad, love and loss. Dan and Mark is a couple at the start of his story, they’re from Chicago and recently relocated to Florida for reason’s you’ll read about. Neither man has a job, but Dan is looking hard and in the meantime he signs up to be an AIDS Buddy and this is where we meet Adam.
Adam is an unforgettable character. He’s one that made his way into my heart and just thinking of him, brings fresh tears to my eyes, because I know that he is who Rick knew. He is, who so many others knew. Adam has a way of looking at things in life. He knows his time on earth is short but he spends no time in feeling sorry for himself. Instead, he finds a buddy and he more or less finds someone to take care of the love of his life. Sullivan. I sit here and remember where Adam was when he was taken, and can only shake my head at the injustice of it.
Dan was devoted to Adam in the short amount of time they had together, they were kindred spirits and I for one am glad I got to experience the light that was Adam. Dan’s relationship with his lover Mark is less than perfect. It’s way less. Mark is an addict and destroys what they have with lies and soon Dan and Mark go their separate ways.
Dan begins doing life on his own, for himself and through the loss of Adam, he and Sullivan become friends they have each other to keep Adam within them, to keep his spirit alive and to remember him. Sadly Adam’s family didn’t recognize Sullivan and thought nothing of his feelings to his lover, as many others. There was no clear closure for Sullivan. No one stops and thinks of a gay person’s partner. And that in itself is a crime and one that should not be repeated or committed ever. We all matter. People matter.
How many people with this damned disease are as alone as Adam was? How many of them were turned out or away from loved ones because of the disease? How many of them have one true friend they can talk to, they can confide in, unto their last breath. We know from the blurb he passes away, but the conditions, the place, it tore my heart out. It made me set the reader down so I could cry. But I went on and I, at the end, found those happy tears, and this story here is one of my top five best novels of the year.
Rick, thank you for opening your heart and for sharing your friend with us. He was very special.
Reviewed By: Michele